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SEA seeks to lower emissions

Joe Piarulli | Wednesday, November 30, 2005

When it comes to Notre Dame, the word ‘admission’ holds much more bearing than the word ’emission.’ But the Students for Environmental Action (SEA) are trying to give the latter more attention.

SEA co-president Nichole Mitchell recently decided to get Notre Dame involved in Campus Climate Challenge, a campaign through U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), with the hope of reducing emissions on campus.

Greenhouse gases naturally occur in the atmosphere and include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone. But certain human activities add to the levels of these naturally occurring gases – and become the emissions the Campus Climate Challenge is aiming to control.

The goal of Campus Climate Challenge is to get over 500 universities to lower their emissions by 2 percent each year below their 2005 levels in order to eliminate global warming pollution. There are currently 139 campuses involved nationwide.

“Energy conservation is a worldwide initiative right now,” Mitchell said. “We have a very ambitious and intelligent student body and we could really make a big difference.”

Some schools have gone as far as switching to renewable energy sources, while others have focused on increasing environmental awareness.

Since Notre Dame just joined the challenge, the primary focus this year will be on education, specifically in the dorms.

“The Students for Environmental Action has had this ongoing competition between the dorms to reduce electricity, so whatever dorm wins gets some form of a prize,” Mitchell said. “That’s been going on for a really long time, but not many people know about it.”

Part of the goal this year is to increase awareness of that competition, but in the following years, SEA will need more large-scale projects to reduce emissions, Mitchell said.

While the students will be the ones actually working toward emission reductions, the SEA will need cooperation from others around campus.

“Hopefully the teachers are going to be the ones who talk with me to administrators,” Mitchell said. “That’s who it really needs to go through, is administrators.”

Laura Fuderer, a member of the Environment Group of the PFSA (Progressive Faculty-Staff Alliance), said the environmental groups on campus should work together to come up with ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Environment Group of the PFSA is indeed hoping to work with the SEA on whatever projects they propose that might make the Notre Dame community aware of the potential impact of global warming,” she said. “That might consequently help us to reduce our contribution to the causes of global warming.”

For Fuderer, the motivation behind the movement is quite clear.

“It’s because we believe, as stewards of this earth, we can find a more sustainable balance between consumption of the Earth’s resources and humanities needs for a healthy environment,” she said. “As a major producer of the world’s carbon dioxide our country has an obligation to the rest of the world to mitigate that output.”

Mitchell said Notre Dame and other college campuses are obviously parts of that output, and there are many ways they can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“Notre Dame is becoming more and more [environmentally conscious] through faculty and students, but energy is a big issue we need to take into consideration,” Mitchell said.

The SEA hopes to raise attention about the Campus Climate Challenge and get student input next semester by starting an educational campaign.

“For this year, we only have four months left, so education of energy conservation would be a big enough goal for us,” Mitchell said.